J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Sellebrity: Parasitic Shutterbugs and the Plastic People They Stalk

Are you ready to feel sympathy for celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lopez?  Maybe just a little?  Viewers will at least have some for their children after watching rock & roll photographer Kevin Mazur’s documentary $ellebrity (trailer here), which begins a series of special screenings nationwide this Friday.

Mazur is a reputable photojournalist.  He is credentialed to be backstage or on the red carpet.  He wants aesthetically interesting shots rather than embarrassing candids.  Unfortunately, scruffy paparazzi have been able to make ridiculously good money from half-legitimate glossies for pictures of famous people doing mundane things.  This gives them an incentive to take any photo at any time.  As a result, Mazur argues it is open season on celebrities 24-7-365.

Basically, Mazur and several talking head experts argue the current state of affairs is largely the fault of Bonnie Fuller (and yours too, if read Us Magazine while she was editor).  While she may bear the brunt of the blame for their “stars are just like us” features, there seems to be plenty of symbiotic culpability to go around.  For instance, if more publicists were sacked after paparazzis crashed supposedly hush-hush events, their tip-offs might suddenly dry up.

Admittedly, Mazur is a photographer of a different color, but there seems to be a slight conflict of interest when he helms a film taking his bottom-feeding rivals to task.  Still, he does not tip toe around major players like Us and TMZ.  However, he never gets any editor of note to really get into the state of celebrity-centric media coverage on-camera.

$ellebrity’s best scene gives viewers a vivid impression of what it is like to be blindsided by a paparazzi pack.  Mostly though, the tone of the film feels much like an extended E! special report.  He certainly found some willing big name participants, including Aniston, Lopez, Salma Hayek, Elton John, and Kid Rock (who easily supplies all the film’s best lines).

Much of the feeding frenzies Mazur documents are truly unsightly.  Even if celebrities largely surrender their right to privacy, their young children do not deserve the same treatment.  When Mazur turns the camera on the stalkerazzi, many of them are decidedly uncomfortable, even threatening.  Frankly, it is rather odd that he did not do more of this.  Putting a face (and a name if possible) to the misbehavior might just be the best way to shame the paparazzi into better conduct.  It could be a great hidden camera reality show.  Regardless, Mazur’s documentary is slick and breezy, but not especially deep.  For those acutely interested in the privacy and press issues it addresses, $ellebrity kicks off a run of limited screenings through D & E Entertainment this Friday (1/11), including the AMC Empire in New York.

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